Susan W. N. Ruach, Indiana Annual Conference
In a recent conversation, a friend shared that he has started taking a class in watercolor painting. “I’m learning patience,” he said, “because you have to wait for the paint to get really dry between each color.” Later he acknowledged that he suspected it would also help him with patience in other areas of his life.
That conversation got me thinking about what I have learned from my own creative endeavors. I love to use a camera to make images, to grasp a moment of beauty and hold it in a photograph. I learned a long time ago that photography helps me switch perspectives. I look through the lens and zoom in or out, and the perspective changes. Or I take two steps to the right or left and again the perspective changes. This is great practice for me in my faith journey because what I am trying to do is switch from my own perspective to God’s perspective, to increasingly see as God sees.
When I go on a photo shoot or even a walk with my camera, I am looking for beauty in the everyday. It is an exercise in seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Some Christian wise-person has said that if we don’t see God in the ordinary, we won’t see God in the extraordinary. Again, what I learn in my creative outlets helps me in other parts of my life and faith as I try to see God in all aspects of my ordinary life.
I have just helped to start “Sight Psalms,” a free, daily online photo devotional sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship. In the process I have not only learned about photography but also about the technology to support this project. The latter area of learning was something that I never anticipated as we began, but I have learned so much.
Creativity is putting together in new ways ideas, thoughts, and material items to bring into being something that did not exist before. I think about Jeremiah saying that if he didn’t prophesy, it was like a burning fire shut up within him (Jer. 20:9). For me if I can’t be creative in some way, my soul dries up.
One of my favorite quotes about creativity is from Mary Cosby from the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. She once said in a workshop, “Creativity is a corollary of salvation.” I had to think about that for a long time, but have come to understand that creativity can only happen when we make space in our lives, when we feel safe and when there is some need or some newness bubbling up. And the promise of our salvation through Christ enables us to be creative. At the same time, exercising our creativity renews us.
Children will not play unless they feel safe. Creativity, which I believe is related to play, will not happen unless we feel safe enough to experiment. It is our salvation in Jesus Christ that theologically is our basis for creativity. We are free in Christ’s love to experiment. We are safe in the ultimate sense and can live deeply into the promise of forgiveness should our creativity run amok in some serious way. Play is the way children learn and work through things in their lives. Creativity often functions the same way for adults.
In addition, Genesis tells us that we are made in the image of God, the One who created the universe and who is creating still. Creativity is one way we live out the image of God in us.
Creativity often happens in our hobbies. Maybe even more important, creativity happens in our work as clergypersons. Every sermon is a creative endeavor, as is every speech, every program. Often meetings and even pastoral care can be creative.
What are your current creative outlets both in your ministry and otherwise? What are you learning from something you are creating? I invite you to look at processes of your own creative endeavors. Do you learn different things from different creative endeavors in your life? How can you invite more of these creative and learning experiences into your life?
My hope and my prayer for you is that your own special kind of creativity can blossom in new ways, teaching you and drawing you closer to God.